Scientific Management and Human Relations Approaches

During the last hundred years, the concept of management has changed dramatically influenced by political, social and economic changes in society. Throughout the beginning of the 21st century, industrial entrepreneurs struggled to achieve a measure of labor discipline that would allow them to accomplish the intensification of production for which the early factories had been established. Traditional work patterns such as those of agricultural workers or cottage weavers vacillated between periods of intense effort and leisure (Taylor, 1997). Achieving sustained work activity meant battling the industrial laborer’s prevailing subsistence mentality. The new millennium demands new work functions and new ways and methods of getting people together. Today, the goal is to solve as many problems as possible where they occur. In contrast to traditional hierarchies, designed to maximize managerial control at all levels, integrative organizations promote ongoing learning, synthesize members’ interests, and promote a two-way flow of information and knowledge. Scientific management and human relations approaches are still applicable today because they ensure strict structure of the organization and positive climate among employees.

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The driving force behind Taylor’s early experiments was his obsession with efficiency and his hatred of wasted effort. An astute observer and skilled craftsman himself, Taylor was well aware that each worker approached his or her task in an idiosyncratic manner, doing things slightly differently and finding ways to make the task easier. His conclusion was that the thousand different ways of doing things were not all optimally effective or equally efficient. Also, reliance on workers’ skills and tacit knowledge, particularly that of the skilled craftsworker, reduced management’s control over the efficiency of production (Alvesson and Willmott 2003) Taylor concluded that the implicit knowledge of the worker could be carefully studied in action and explicated in order to yield its secrets. Work tasks had to be observed, analyzed, and measured in meticulous ways in order to discover “the one best way” for doing a specific task. Taylor translated his findings into step-by-step detailed instructions for workers that went as far as prescribing when a worker had to sit down and relax in order to preserve the body’s capability to work over an extended period of time. With the application of these five principles, a structure of work was created narrow enough to eliminate the individual worker’s discretion and independent judgment, presumably leaving the worker no choice other than to follow the prescribed “right” way to do the job. However, it was the development of corresponding logistic principles incorporated in Henry Ford’s moving assembly line that actually signaled the broader transformation of previous craft production structures to the modern mode of mass production (Bratton, 2007).

Though Taylor’s methods are aimed at establishing managerial control and coordination over the work process on the assumption that this would improve efficiency and quality, he believed, along with many of his engineering colleagues, that workers’ attempts to restrain their efforts was perfectly rational and in line with their own interests. Thus he proposed that the productivity increases to be gained from more efficient task organization should be shared in the form of the differential piece rate system (Locke, 1995).

In working life, as in personal life, individuals can play the major part in managing their affairs. A successful employee manages his or her own progress. A successful manager manages his or her own team. A manager is expected to plan, set deadlines, direct and supervise others, maintain high morale and satisfaction among the employees, and achieve his or her own performance objectives. In the face of competing demands on time and resources, it is essential that a manager have clearly stated objectives; objectives alone, however, are not sufficient for effectively managing within an often unpredictable work environment. Self-management can provide a personalized program for improving an individual’s own behavior and exercising greater control over aspects of his or her decision making. (Kanigel, 1999).

Taylor (1998) described self-management as a “substitute for leadership” (p. 54) in that it teaches a subordinate to exercise control over the same contingencies of reinforcement available to the subordinate’s supervisor. Implicit in this view is that employee self-management can be instrumental in furthering organizational goals by freeing supervisors to perform other important tasks (e.g., strategic planning). Taylor work has involved the use of self-managed work groups in industrial settings, the use of self-management training for entrepreneurs, and development of self-leadership capabilities in subordinates. In the face of competing demands on time and resources, it is essential that a manager have clearly stated objectives. Objectives alone are not sufficient for managing effectively within an often unpredictable and chaotic work environment. Training in self-management can improve an individual’s behavior and lead to the exercise of greater control over aspects of his or her decision making and performance. Further empirical work is needed in this area to examine the effectiveness of this training for employee performance in organizational settings (McAuley et al, 2007).

Scientific management and management theory differs greatly from the past theory and practice because of economic changes and new models of work structure. In order to illustrate the differences, it is important to describe past practices and management viewpoints (Becker, 1993). Work tasks had to be observed, analyzed, and measured in meticulous ways in order to discover “the one best way” for doing a specific task. Frederick Taylor applied himself to more than the determination of output standards. He was convinced that the function of the general foreman, the key figure in traditional factory organization, could not be competently performed by one individual. Instead, these tasks should be “scientifically” subdivided and moved to a planning department. The driving force behind Taylor’s early experiments was his obsession with efficiency and his hatred of wasted effort. An astute observer and skilled craftsman himself, Taylor was well aware that each worker approached his or her task in an idiosyncratic manner, doing things slightly differently and finding ways to make the task easier. The growing industrialization, in part a result of the integration of Taylorist principles with Fordist production methods, had increased the standard of living such that people started to focus on more than material subsistence (Campbell, 1997).

In contrast to past principles and practices of management, contemporary management is flexible and reflective. The aim of management is to adapt to new market conditions and meet diverse needs of modern organizations in spite of their size and complexity. Modern management framework involves such concepts as technology, structure, effectiveness, and fit (Taylor, 1997).Each of the concepts have great impact on the modern organization and its functions. The main limitations of the concepts and issues covered by the modern management theories are lack of scope and simplification of the business environment and its forces. Organizational research might be used in the study of information technology in cooperative work groups. In this discussion, the limitations of modern management concepts involve theoretical and empirical weakness. It becomes obvious that despite its popularity, modern management concepts have been subject to much criticism having to do with how to define and measure the key elements, as well as how to test the modern economic, political and social aspects of the theory. To use modern management concepts to study modern corporations, the manager must define the key attributes of the business and decide how to measure them (Watson, 1994). The correlation between these measures and measures of arrangement indicates how well the management decisions matches structure. Modern management concepts do not reveal much about how the important properties of these systems should be measures. Many of these management concepts either compare groups with teams or compare current motivation with established standards (Cole, 1998).

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In an effort to protect themselves from the harsh demands that early industrial labor imposed on their bodies, workers alternated between intense spurts of activity and rebellion against confinement and discipline. A combination of elaborate fines, threats, and punishments was utilized to overcome the ambivalence of the workers and the multitude of ways they used to limit output and exhaustion. The pioneers of modern management in the railroad companies had all been trained civil engineers experienced in railroad and bridge construction before moving into the management of these enterprises (Dessler, 2007).

In contrast to these developments, contemporary management is strategic and tactical. The journey in search of strategic credibility is a long one, but it starts with a single step. With many companies, this first step is long overdue. Others, who have already set out on the journey, have found that a commitment to open, candid and timely communications is an investment in the future well worth making. These companies have a head start in the race to achieve world competitiveness–not just because they have outstanding strategy communications programs; world-class companies do many things well, including being responsive to the legitimate informational needs of key stakeholders and other concerned constituencies (Thomas, 2003). The apparent wrong perception of the company’s main activities led management to suspect that this might be one of the reasons for the undervaluation of the company’s share at international stock exchanges (Dobson and Starkey 2004).

Bureaucracy was the core of the organizational structure for a century. Today, organizational prefer to introduce flexible decentralized structure which permits effective and fast decision-making and problem-solving. Competition is also intensified by the increasing globalization of economic exchange relationships and markets. Resulting changes in the size and variety of markets require quick responses and adaptation to new demands (Thomas, 2003). The development of a “competent” organization involves much more than narrow skill training of the existing workforce or the recruitment of new employees able to meet these competence requirements. Much of the knowledge and many of the skills required at the four levels outlined above are best acquired within the organization (Dobson and Starkey 2004).

At the beginning of the 21h century, ,management methods were aimed at establishing managerial control and coordination over the work process on the assumption that this would improve efficiency and quality, he believed, along with many of his engineering colleagues, that workers’ attempts to restrain their efforts was perfectly rational and in line with their own interests. At the beginning of the 21st century, cultural control means that formal rules and regulations are no longer necessary replaced by norms and values, traditions and beliefs (Storey, 1998).

Contemporary management reflects economic and social changes affected industrial enterprises and organizations for a century. A complementary management policy would determine medium- and long-range competence development profiles, and assess employees’ qualification potential in light of these requirements. Personnel recruitment then becomes an internal as well as an external function. Employees already part of the organization are “recruited” and encouraged to take on new tasks, with training, education, and work design matching the goals of continuous competence development. This requires an organizational philosophy with a developmental and learning orientation that is convincingly communicated externally as well as internally. The past division of labor is replaced by a division of learning, predicated on the flattening of existing organizational hierarchies. Both aspects of integrative rationalization are aimed at supporting and maximizing self-regulation, thus increasing overall organizational flexibility and adaptability (Linstead et al 2004).

These expectations regarding personal mastery determine whether people will try to cope with difficult situations. In addition, efficacy expectations serve to determine how much effort people will expend and how long they will persist in their efforts to overcome obstacles or aversive events. The stronger is the efficacy expectations, the more active one’s efforts. Efficacy judgments vary on three dimensions–magnitude (or level), generality, and strength–all of which have important performance implications. Scale of self-efficacy is a function of the perceived level of difficulty of the tasks or situation at hand. Generality refers to an individual’s overall sense of self-efficacy with regard to a particular set of behaviors. People may judge themselves as efficacious only in certain performance situations or across a wide range of activities and situations. Strength refers to the effort an individual will put forth in a situation. Self-knowledge about one’s efficacy, whether accurate or faulty, is a synthesis of information from a variety of sources including performance attainments, observations, verbal inputs, and emotional states. Behavior change programs are said to be effective to the extent that they alter relevant efficacy expectations. In contrast to self-efficacy, the predictive ability of outcome expectancies has not always been supported (Mintzberg et al 2004).

These changing assumptions about human nature did not challenge the Taylorist structure of work. Rather, the focus shifted to the work environment and worker management. The growing industrialization, in part a result of the integration of Taylorist principles with Fordist production methods, had increased the standard of living such that people started to focus on more than material subsistence. In other words, workers could “afford” to be social beings, reflecting needs other than mere material concerns. The human relations movement contributed to the strengthening of managerial authority, which had been badly shaken by the Great Depression. Mayo agreed with the necessity of unity of purpose and central authority. Yet managerial authority was not to be based on coercion but rather on scientific training that would allow managers to set their own emotions aside and, through careful training, acquire the knowledge and technical skills needed to systematize operations and organize cooperation (Mullins, 2005).

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Central to the human relations approach was the improvement of the organizational climate, stemming from the assumption that motivation increases if workers feel good, and that workers feel good in a pleasant environment with supportive social relationships. The work environment thus was not to be organized so as to narrowly channel work efforts and prevent deviation, but rather to create the conditions conducive to performance. Personnel departments now aimed toward sustaining work output by fostering communication, often through superficial improvements of the work environment. As cynics have suggested, the worker continued to screw in the same two bolts all day long, but the drudgery was now sweetened by a radio playing in the background, flowers on the table, and an occasional friendly word (Parker, 2002).

This conceptualization of human nature and work leads to forms of work organization aimed at the development of competences by giving work groups the scope and latitude to complete tasks based on their own planning and guided only by specified deadlines and standards. There is no longer a “one best way” for doing things; rather there is discretion and decision latitude rooted in the recognition that different paths might equally well achieve the same goals. The metaphor is that of an organism where different organs fulfill different functions but are dependent on each other, and can function appropriately only in interaction with all other parts of the organism. Though often highly successful in terms of productivity increases, workplace safety, and worker commitment, various factors prevented the widespread adoption of this approach. In particular, work rules rooted in traditionally adversarial labor-management relations, management’s reluctance to share control over work organization, and the expanding economy in many industrialized countries during the sixties provided little impetus for change. Once again, a combination of economic forces and changing values gave rise to a new way of conceptualizing work and work organization and experimentation with new organizational choices. In the United States, these forces have only recently come into focus. Rapid technological change, quality instead of quantity of output as the key competitive element in an increasingly global economy, the shift from a producer- to a consumeroriented market, and the changing expectations of an increasingly educated segment of the workforce have created an environment in which companies are forced to search for new ways to assure organizational success and survival. The scientific management takes a closer look at the implications of this changing context and the opportunities and threats that it presents (Reed, 2001).

The overview of the different conceptualizations of work and work organization throughout this century can be summarized as follows: Depending on the approach taken, the design of work activities and work organization may create a more broadly or more narrowly defined structure that may either deliberately stifle and limit, or enhance the developmental potential of human beings in the context of work activities. These structures and processes have a powerful influence on the characteristics and behavior of the organizational members. People in rigid and bureaucratic organizations tend to develop rigid and bureaucratic personalities; if the organization does not change, people are not likely to change either. Organizations that are flexible and dynamic tend to “reproduce” similar characteristics in their employees. While characteristics of work and organizational design reflect the changes in the economic, political, and social environment, rather than replacing each other, different elements of the design approaches discussed here tend to coexist in various combinations in today’s organizations or in different industrial contexts (Schuler, 1998).

The development of a “competent” organization involves much more than narrow skill training of the existing workforce or the recruitment of new employees able to meet these competence requirements. Much of the knowledge and many of the skills required at the four levels outlined above are best acquired within the organization. A complementary human resource policy would determine medium- and long-range competence development profiles, and assess employees’ qualification potential in light of these requirements. Personnel recruitment then becomes an internal as well as an external function. Employees already part of the organization are “recruited” and encouraged to take on new tasks, with training, education, and work design matching the goals of continuous competence development. This requires an organizational philosophy with a developmental and learning orientation that is convincingly communicated externally as well as internally. The decentralized organization also led to considerable variation among teams; in some, workers are more likely to cling to established methods and work patterns, and in others highly qualified workers take iniative and continuously strive to develop new methods and improvements. The differences in the production design concepts and forms of work organization illustrated by these examples are the result of a variety of factors, among them labor market conditions, the economic positions of the companies involved, the market niche served, the system of labor-management relations in a given nation, as well as management philosophies and values. Social system change is thus a process of developing goals, negotiating different interests, and fostering willingness to change, both individually and collectively. HRM can make the most of this asset, beginning with an open and wholesome interaction in a focus group. However, personal management is seen only as the starting point for building a trusting relationship between manager and worker. For personal management to take full effect, an organization must channel the energy provided by the focus group into the widest possible range of HRM applications.

References

Alvesson, M. & Willmott, H. 2003. Studying Management Critically. Sage.

Becker, G. 1993. Human capital. New York Columbia University Press, 3rd edn.

Bratton, J. 2007. Work and Organizational Behaviour. Understanding the Workplace. Palgrave.

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Campbell, D.J. 1997. Organizations and the Business Environment. Oxford: Butterworth-Heinemann.

Cole, G. A. 1998. Strategic Management. Thomson Learning.

Dessler, G. 2007. Human Resource Management. Prentice Hall.

Dobson, P., Starkey, K. 2004. The Strategic Management: Issues and Cases. Blackwell Publishing.

Linstead, S., Fulop, L., Lilley, S. 2004. Management and Organization. A critical text. Palgrave.

Locke, R.R. 1995. The Collapse of the American Management Mystique, Oxford UP.

Kanigel, R. 1999. The One Best Way: Frederick Winslow Taylor and the Enigma of Efficiency (Sloan Technology). Penguin (Non-Classics).

McAuley, J., Johnson, P., Duberley, J. 2007. Organization Theory: Challenges and Perspectives. Financial Times Press.

Mintzberg, H., Lampel, J. B., Quinn, J. B., Ghoshal, S. 2004. The Strategy Process. Pearson Education.

Mullins, L. 2005. Management and Organizational Behavior. Prentice Hall.

Parker, M. 2002. Against Management. Polity Press.

Reed A. 2001. Innovation in Human Resource Management. Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development.

Schuler, R. 1998. Managing Human Resources. Cincinnati, Ohio: South-Western College Publishing.

Storey, J. 1998. New perspectives on Human Management, Routledge, London.

Taylor, F. 1997. Principles of Scientific Management. Dover Publications.

Thomas, A.B. 2003. Controversies in Management: Issues, Debates, Answers. Routledge.

Watson, T. J. 1994. In Search of Management. Routledge.

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